I was scanning The Huffington Post when I came across a piece entitled: “Why I’m an Angry White Guy.” I didn’t read it. I’ve enough anger from a life of disability discrimination to fill an abandoned shopping mall in Detroit.
To be clear: I don’t believe angry white men aren’t entitled to vent. I’m all for venting—that’s what a free society is all about. Vent White Guy! (Though you’re really pink for the most part.) Go on, vituperate Bro! Go get ‘em! Us black, queer, womanish, and/or crippled types have been howling throughout history. If you want to sing in the beastly opera, come on in.
But I know you don’t want to join the chorus of the disenfranchised. You’re angry because them Indians, them Negroes, them women who refuse to stay home, them pesky disabled, all them atheists and abnormal types have pushed you into a corner, an imaginary one yes, but a corner you fervently believe in nonetheless.
American anger is circumstantial and always in the air. We’re meant to be angry. Democracy depends on discontent. Every citizen has sand in her oyster. If you’re alert enough you’ll know what truly ails you. Our venting white guys are not awake, not in a true sense, though they feel things. They are, as John Lennon once said: “doped on religion, and sex and TV…” It’s hard to be angry at the right targets when you scarcely know who’s pockets are being lined with the advertising dollars that mediate and extend your unhappiness.
Liberals don’t understand the Venting White Guys. They blame Fox News for brainwashing them, or Reagan for letting them into the town square by inflaming long suppressed white intolerance and evangelical suspicion. I used to believe this as well, but then I revisited the Know Nothing Party, and the spiteful rhetoric of campaigns long past and saw that really, there’s nothing new under the sun.
Liberals also say that it’s all Lyndon Johnson’s fault for pushing civil rights—that his greatest triumph fractured the Democratic party forever—a fracture that Nixon took full advantage of; that the GOP has capitalized on ever since. This is also not true. This premise relies on the idea that racially intolerant Southern Democrats were somehow valuable as rank and file soldiers in the endless fight for the White House. In truth, had the Democrats campaigned avidly for diversity, rather than seeing it as a third rear wheel on the tricycle, they’d have been unbeatable consistently. Obama understood this potential.
Angry white men are mostly 11 year old boys who’ve gotten large. They think the dark kid next door is going to steal their lunch money. They like girls but only if they’re malleable. They hate their parents (the gummint, as Huck Finn’s father would say), they love to parade around in their Duck Dynasty Sweat Pants.
But they’re a fact, like candy or coconuts. Trump has them drooling. Ted Cruz also.
If the Democrats want to be a national party, and not a faintly national party, they’ll work tirelessly both to expand their reach within historically marginalized communities, but also in the ruined suburbs. Bernie blames Wall Street. Hillary says she’s for jobs and progress. Neither alone is convincing enough in my view to offset the widening unhappiness of 11 year olds.
Bernie is closer to the gestalt.